Tim Kring has been largely absent from the television game since the cancelation of his science-fiction drama Heroes. Naturally, those familiar with Kring’s previous work on the NBC series might draw similarities between it and his newest venture, Touch, the Fox drama that premiered last night after Idol. And you wouldn’t have to look too hard to find them, either.
But interestingly enough, Heroes isn’t the only set-to-rest old favorite (I choose to remember only the first season) that comes to mind while watching Touch. Sure, Kring’s old series may be the most prevalent in terms of similarities, but Touch provokes nostalgia for some other old TV fixtures, including 24 (and not just because of its star Kiefer Sutherland, although it helps), and, as is the trend these days, LOST.
What makes us think of it?
For starters, there’s a kid with an apparent superpower. Let’s get that right out there. Jake’s ability is grounded in math and a certain type of spirituality, yes, but it is still, in essence, “superhuman.” Additionally, we witness a bunch of people around the world—New York, Dublin, Tokyo, Baghdad—who are all introduced as separate but thematically connected characters in this episode. Kring kept New York and Tokyo, ditched India and brought in Iraq. The larger connections to Heroes are plentiful. First off, the aesthetic and the pacing are almost identical. Both series start inside the mind of the show’s protagonist, placed high up above the ground as he ruminates on the meaning of the universe. One of them can fly, but still. There’s also the matter of the “There’s something larger that we’re part of” theme that was Heroes' bread and butter—although we’ve only scratched the surface with the pilot, it seems as though the show will be traveling with the “Great Power, Great Responsibility” route in terms of Martin’s drive to help people thanks to his son’s gift. Can Touch pull it off as well?
Heroes started out like a glorious thunderbird, but then went to hell as early as the first episode of Season 2. If anything, I’d implore Touch to avoid the mistakes of its Kring predecessor by not aching to draw itself out as much. It is uncommon for American series to voluntarily restrict themselves to fewer seasons for the sake of artistic integrity, but if Kring cares about his characters and his message—which could be a very uplifting and important one—then I hope he considers letting Touch grow and eventually settle organically. LOST What makes us think of it?
The first thing that calls attention, I’d say, is the numbers. Jake is obsessed with the number 318—it appears and reappears repeatedly throughout the episode, suggested and then proven to have an incredible significance, as did the LOST digits: 4 8 15 16 23 42, or any jumbled combination thereof. Although casting is hardly something to attach with thematic similarity, I do have to make mention of the presence of the Man in Black in this episode as a New York fireman crippled with guilt over his failure to have saved a woman who turns out to have been Martin’s wife back on Sept. 11. The larger similarity here is in the uncanny connecting thread between each of these worlds-apart characters. LOST played around with, and then smacked us in the face with, the idea that all of its islanders were, in fact, destined to be connected. Touch pretty much comes right out and says that about its own collection of characters. Can Touched pull it off as well?
LOST is a once-in-a-lifetime TV show—although hardly perfect. For better or for worse, we became obsessively attached to the characters thanks to the dynamic they built in their island community. Touch, so far, does not have this luxury, as its characters are largely separated. But I have a feeling this will not be permanent. And I already find myself rooting for most of them. 24
I suppose this one is the biggest stretch - and yes, the Jack Bauer connection is a heavy contributor to the presence of it at all - but it’s surely there. The pilot has its own “Beat the clock” angle, as we see Martin vying to fulfill his son’s precognition of a significant event occurring at exactly 3:18 p.m. at Grand Central Terminal. The end of the episode suggests that Martin will continue to see out his son’s visions in order to better the world, or please the universe, or just to understand his son—that’s probably the best motivation anyhow. If we’re going to see more of Sutherland running to solidify universe-altering machinations before the various 3:18s of the future, we might as well start asking where Jake’s older sister Elisha Cuthbert is. Can Touch do it as well?
I was not a 24 fan, but I must admit that, for what it set out to be, 24 was a tour-de-force. To try and emulate that—especially with the same star in tow—will supply results that always pale in comparison. Let me explain that I’m not at all accusing Touch of “stealing ideas” from these or other programs. Ideas—especially good ones—are by nature universal phenomena. They are more effective in some instances than in others, but the reason they work so well anywhere is because they’re relatable. But does Touch fare as well with these elements as do its predecessors? Well, that’s one of the many mysteries of the universe I’m sure that Martin and Jake will be exploring over the weeks to come. Actually, that might get a little meta. And there’s already a vehemently meta show out there with a character who is ostracized as mentally ill for seeing things that others don't. Coincidence? Homage? Universal idea? Oh yes. We're all in it now.